Kurt Schwitter’s “Usonate” 1922
I think Kurt Schwitter’s musical performance “Usonate” (1922) is a prime example of the Dadaist philosophy and applying this philosophy to multiple artistic mediums. This sound-poetry looks and sounds like utter nonsense, but none-the-less it achieves the Dadaist idea of creating something that means nothing, yet still contradicts itself by creating nothing that means something. Something that interests me about Dada is how it requires no explanation, yet the artists put effort into creating detailed, often convoluted, explanations that do nothing more than add to the ambiguity of their art pieces. In Tristan Tzara’s 1918 Dada Manifesto, he enforces a belief that criticism is useless and that rational explanation does not apply to Dadaist art. Even though he states that evaluating these art pieces will not amount to anything, he inadvertently encourages criticism as a way of calling attention to the meaninglessness of their artwork. Likewise, Schwitter states that he will only accept criticism from those who truly put work into understanding his poetry, however it is impossible to pin down a certain meaning or universal conclusion to what his work means. When listening to “Usonate” there is no rhythm, no music, no melody, only nonsensical vocals that convey a sense of confidence and assurance that conflicts with its sheer ridiculousness. This sort of sound-poetry, in addition to its detailed explanation, begs for the criticism that Dadaism disregards. By creating an eternal cycle of contradiction, Dadaism allows itself to be eternally questioned by the public, while maintaining a belief in NOTHING. For me, Dada is not as much an art movement as it is a philosophical way of looking at the world and human nature. If everything amounts to nothing in the end, one has a sense of freedom that extends beyond that of art and applies to how one lives their life in relation to conventional outlooks on what is rational thinking.